Freight Class Descriptions — Not Knowing Them Could Cost You

Freight Class Descriptions — Not Knowing Them Could Cost You

Before we dig too deep into actual freight class descriptions, I want to talk a bit about what freight class is, why it’s important, and why you need more than just your freight class to ship properly.

(By the way, this mostly applies to LTL shipping, just an FYI.)

Though I’m going to give you some generalized freight class descriptions in this post, I want to make something clear — it’s very, very easy to get extremely bogged down in the details of how freight class works.

Yes, you can figure this stuff out on your own, and yes, it’s only going to help you to know as much as possible about your freight, how it’s being shipped, and associated classes and codes, but the truth is, if you’re working with an experienced 3PL (third-party logistics provider) who specializes in your industry, they’re going to help you determine the NMFC codes for your products and the proper shipping class.

But, if you’re determined to figure it out on your own, you need to be as informed as possible and as accurate as possible. You can always visit the NMFTA website and request help directly (you can email them or call them as well), though this may cost you a bit of money. However, if you classify your shipment incorrectly, it might cost you a lot more.

In fact, if you put the wrong NMFC description, class, or item number, or even the wrong dimensions (or worse, if you leave it off entirely), the carrier who is handling your shipment may take the liberty of classifying your shipment for you…

And probably not in a way that is going to benefit you financially.

Freight Class — Descriptions Help, but There’s a Lot That Goes Into These Calculations

Ok, I know I promised you a list, and you’ll get it, but I just really want to drive home the point of how complicated this stuff can get.

So, there are 18 freight classes. These freight classes are determined by a variety of factors, and your shipping costs are going to scale accordingly.

This can seem very arbitrary, but it’s absolutely not — it’s more than just determining how much room your shipment is going to take up.

Here are the 4 major factors that help determine freight classes:

  • Density
  • Handling
  • Stowability
  • Liability

And, as the NMFTA’s website says, “These 4 characteristics establish a commodity’s ‘transportability.’”

It’s basically a method of standardization, and this benefits us in a variety of ways. Sure, there are lots of arguments out there about problems with the current system, but you’re going to find that with any system — nothing’s perfect.

That being said, the more informed you are, the better. The most common calculations that most shippers are going to be worried about pertain to the first item on the list — density. However, they all play a factor.

For example, stowability doesn’t apply to the majority of shipments, but if you’re shipping hazardous materials, or if your shipment is very heavy or abnormally shaped, what you end up paying for your shipment is going to change.

Handling and liability similarly are going to affect shipping prices — a shipment that is potentially explosive, for example, or a shipment that is excessively fragile, is going to change the liability that the carrier has to take on to ship the product (and change the way the carrier has to handle that particular shipment).

All this and more has to be considered, and the classification of your freight is going to be affected directly by these factors — but, as I mentioned above, density is likely going to play the biggest role.

Freight Class Descriptions — Commodity Classifications Paired With Density and Value

This table is a combination of information from the NMFTA. Just keep in mind that, as they say themselves, “...the value guidelines provide an indication of the upper value limits associated with the various classes.”

If your shipment has stowability, handling, or liability issues outside the ‘norm,’ your classification is going to change.

You can check out the full procedures guide that this table is pulled from here, but suffice to say, it’s a dense read.

Here’s the table of freight class descriptions that I’ve been promising you:


Class Minimum Average Density (Pounds Per Cubic Foot) Maximum Average Value Per Pound
50 50 $1.25
55 35 $2.50
60 30 $3.80
65 22.5 $6.30
70 15 $9.50
77.5 13.5 $12.65
85 12 $19.00
92.5 10.5 $25.30
100 9 $31.65
110 8 $34.80
125 7 $39.55
150 6 $47.50
175 5 $55.45
200 4 $63.35
250 3 $79.15
300 2 $95.00
400 1 $126.65
500 Less than 1 $158.35


Now take all this information with more than a bit of skepticism — a number of factors can influence the classification of your shipment, as I’ve mentioned, so try to think of this as more of a rough guide than something absolute.

Need Some Help Determining Your Freight Class? We’d Love to Help

Our experience shipping a wide variety of specialty goods makes us uniquely qualified to help you figure out exactly how to classify your shipment. If you’re shipping a specialty product that’s going to need a little more than your average evaluation, we can help you ensure your shipment gets where it needs to go, on time, and in great condition.

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